From old ways to Blueways

Steeped in history, Ireland's village of Fenagh is at the heart of slow adventuring. The "Blueway" - a boat & canoe friendly route that links the famous Shannon river in Ireland with the Erne from Northern Ireland, provides a fantastic link between Ireland's rich culture, and accessible nature. Once we were knackered out from the excitement of paddling, we got to relax in the luxury of River Cottage - itself a gem of sustainability. In this post you can read about our canoe & bicycle trip, and our stay at the River Cottage in Fenagh, in North West Ireland.

Watch a film from our Canoeing adventure:

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This post was made possible with help from the Slow Adventure in the Northern Territories (SAINT) project. Read more about our fantastic sponsor here!  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are our own.

 

Fenagh village & River cottage

Arriving at Fenagh late, we could see the old Abbey lit up - a bright foreground as we took a few turns from the village to reach River Cottage. As we were warmly welcomed by our host, Stephen - who showed us around this really amazing accommodation, we felt massively lucky that we'd spend the next two nights here!

Delightful surprise by Edergole Kitchen

Jo from Edergole Kitchen provided us with local ingredients for our dinner. To inspire us, she already put them to use, making a ready-to-heat dinner for us - a fantastic welcome! During the summer season the River Cottage garden provides vegetables and herbs for its guests, but since we visited the cottage in October, Jo stepped in and provided the out-of-season vegetables. In addition to the amazing vegetable patch the garden includes a variety of lovely flowers and a view over the calm burn that runs past the house.

Really big rooms and a warm wood fire made for a cosy atmosphere. As Stephen welcomed us and left for the evening, we decided to check-in at the local pub; "Quinn's". We past it on the way to the cottage - Mark's eyes widening at the idea of finally enjoying his first Guinness in Ireland.

 Nice view of River cottage and its grounds

Nice view of River cottage and its grounds

 Tasty home-made beetroot curry from Edergole Kitchen - thanks Jo!

Tasty home-made beetroot curry from Edergole Kitchen - thanks Jo!

Quinn's Pub for our first Irish Guinness

We reached Quinn's and settled in by the bar, exchanging nice conversation with the previous owner who was putting in some helpful shifts. It was just like being in Caithness (Scotland) for Mark, that feeling of being home in a pub. It was a great way to wind down from travelling and feel settled into the place. 

Slow food and a good night sleep at the River Cottage 

After a pint (or two), we got back to the cottage and set Jo's dinner on. It was like being treated by an invisible ghost - looking after us as if knowing we were going to be hungry by the time we had arrived. A breakfast hamper had already been unpacked into the fridge, providing more local produce for us to cook up the following morning.

We added some logs to the fire and got our shoes dry for the next day's adventure with Stephen. It was really nice to have already met him and know we'd be in great company. Our massive bed hugged us to sleep and we slept incredibly well.

Homely breakfast and a walk in the garden

With little rush in the morning it was lovely to stroll around and explore the place in day light. The garden was amazing, so much produce and backdropped by a burn bubbling away. These tranquil settings are hard to find.

 Morning sun at River Cottage

Morning sun at River Cottage

 Fresh garden produce couldn't be more local

Fresh garden produce couldn't be more local

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Well fed and ready for adventure

Having done our duty with Jo's breakfast hamper and explored the cottage grounds, we were met again by Stephen, ready for slow adventuring! We'd first take bicycles through the village, exploring as we go, reach the Shannon-Erne Blueway and transfer to canoe for the day! Lilly - Stephen's adorable golden retriever knew the plan already, and was a great travel companion - running along side as we started our cycle.

From old ways to Blueways 

Exploring these roads less travelled was a lovely departure from being behind a motor. We were winding down, into nature and somehow back in time - the elements of history becoming more apparent as we tuned into what we were doing.

Old roads form a network of cycling and walking options around the Blueway, making it easy to get to and from the waterways. These Blueways are a fantastic initiative to interlink canals, rivers and lakes with paths and access roads. As paddlers, it gives 70km to explore, and being enjoyable grade 1 flat water, it makes it accessible to any level or age. Biking, walking, paddling or a combination make it easy to tailor a slow adventure.

 Cycling and laughing our way towards the Blueway

Cycling and laughing our way towards the Blueway

 

Peddle to Paddle

We left our bikes and got into canoes at Ballyduff Lock. Everything is setup for canoeing the Blueway, making the transfer from peddle to paddle really easy.

As Stephen and Thea took one canoe, Mark and Lilly settled into the other, and we were off! Gentle flowing water with birds and kingfishers made a great next step in our nature connection that the bicycles warmed us up to.

It was amazing to slow the pace down and take in more of the surroundings, leaving the woodlands with winding single track roads and paths, for long stretches of calming freshwater and big landscape scenery. The nature changed dramatically. 

Mixing it up on the Blueway

Paddling along the canal led us into the Kilbarron lake, then into St John's lake where we stopped and rested for lunch. One of the joys of paddling is the pioneering mindset of choosing a place to pause, and we settled for an old oak tree with lush grass and fluffy cows.

Back on to our bikes

After the lakes, we got into a long, calm canal stretch that led to the Castlefore Lock, where our bicycles mysteriously and wonderfully had been brought over for us (by Stephen's brother)! 

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Village of Fenagh 

There was plenty to see in Fenagh itself. One of Ireland's oldest monastic sites, the Fenagh Abbey gave up stories of locals resistant to it being built and so interfering with its construction. They'd sneakily undo parts of their own labour at night, until eventually caught. It's beautifully lit up at night, and was what established this quaint village back in the 6th century when the Abbey was a monastery. Portal tombs, standing stones and stories of the burials of Gaelic kings - with the Abbey itself in the background, give a lot to see and explore. This part of Leitrim was clearly the place of importance for tens of centuries before we looked around.

A quick stop by the village heritage museum elaborated further with more detail of Fenagh's past, giving us more perspective on times gone by.

 The Fenagh Abbey

The Fenagh Abbey

Stephen: Host & Guide

It was truly special to have Stephen (and Lilly) not only to guide us on our slow adventures, but to be hosts as well. It meant that the flow from where we stayed was wonderfully connected to what we where doing, and this made us feel extra welcomed and looked after.

This adventure was also a deep dive into Stephens love for the countryside and his passion for sharing it with others.  

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This adventure lead us back to a childhood playfulness and showed us Irish countryside in a gentle and comfortable way.

Check out Way To Go Adventure to book your stay at the River Cottage or a tour with Stephen: http://waytogoadventures.com/

More information about Leitrim: http://leitrimtourism.com/
For more info on Slow Adventuring in Ireland, check out this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/slowadventureireland/

We'd like to thank SAINT, the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, and the European Union for their support in making this post happen!
The SAINT project: www.saintproject.eu

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